The More You Know, The Better You

The More You Know, The Better You Feel

Mixed Media 59" x 90" 2005

The targets are activists involved in some of ACT UP's most controversial actions, or members who have played key roles in disagreements within the group.

Over the past few months, ACT UPers have reported calls made to their families; callers asking for detailed information about the group; a phone line being cut; threatening mail; a swastika, fecal matter, and other objects left at their home; and numerous death threats. The activists have begun to regard their experience as a rerun of the FBI's Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO), with its attempts to "disrupt and destabilize" dissident political groups from the '50s to the '70s. "They do this to make you feel isolated," says Laurie Cotter, a target of harassment since March. "You go through this period of real paranoia and not trusting each other."

"It makes a lot of sense that they'd move in this way with ACT UP, where it wouldn't have worked if they'd gone directly to people's homes and asked questions," says Shelley Miller, of Freedom Now, a political prisoners' support group. Adds Glick: "If you believe that these are just pranks by homophobic right-wing guys, you have to explain how they could have access to unlisted numbers and phone company records, and work in so many cities in a coordinated way. The fact that this is combined with physical attacks and threats, and coming at a time when ACT UP is beginning to function as a strategic link between white, Black and Latino activists, FBI involvement wouldn't be surprising. It's typical for the FBI and police to hit in ways that exacerbate differences between white activists and activists of color, and between men and women. It adds to the feel of this being a covert operation."

The brutality Glick refers to began when three activists were arrested on February 5th for spray-painting at John Cardinal O'Connor's residence, and one was beaten up. The incident led to a demonstration at the Midtown North precinct, where three members were pulled from the crowd; one, Chris Hennelly, was severely beaten (he has permanent brain damage), and another ACT UPer, who tried to videotape the beating, had her camera smashed.

This violence follows signs of police surveillance of ACT UP. Several times, when the floor spontaneously voted to stage a protest, activists arrived at their destination an hour later to find the police in full force.

This one was the breaking point for me, I've got to make stuff that's alot smaller.

Figures, love and affirmation, the police brutality. The figures could be transgendered queer or whatever. The Marlboro Man could be a queer guy in San Francisco, or a macho guy in Hayward. The Marlboro Man is so queer, often appearing in seductive poses. The original Marlboro man died of AIDS a few years ago. "The more you know the better you feel" is from Aetna, one of the first insurance companies.

There is no proof or information about COINTELPRO and police brutality. We don't know what's going on, and if we did we wouldn't feel better.